9 Ways to Save Money When Taking an Air Flight
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Do you ever feel that every moment of your airline and airport experience is designed to suck a little or a lot more money from your wallet even after the large chunk you’ve already laid down for the ticket itself? Think about it, everything from parking fees to luggage charges, not to mention the ridiculous cost of food in both airports and aboard planes these days. I recently flew across the U.S. and then to Sao Paolo and eventually Florianopolis, Brazil, with three children. In order to have any hope of making this adventure we had to keep to a tight budget so I was extremely careful with planning when it came to our flying days. I realized I was vulnerable not only to being pressed to continually feed three hungry children over the long journey (which turned out to be more than 48 hours of travel due to cancelled flights which caught us in airports and overnight in a hotel) but also to incurring huge luggage fees because we were embarking on a year long journey that would span summer as well as winter weather. This time my pre-planning paid off. Here are a few of my strategies that saved hundreds of dollars:
(I won’t be going into how to book a cheap airline ticket in this article – that requires a post of it’s own.)
Pack Light and Know Airline Luggage Policies
– One of the most important ways to save money flying these days is to be sure you are within the regulations for luggage size and weight limits. Luggage that is too heavy or too many pieces of luggage can raise your trip costs by hundreds of dollars. It would be great if airlines could agree to a standard rule but they haven’t. If your trip includes more than one airline don’t assume you are safe if you adhere to the policies of the first. Your second airline may have different rules. Research each airline you are using for their specific size and weight policies and be sure to pay attention to differences in policies for domestic vs. international flights. In addition, if you are traveling with more than one person keep in mind whether your luggage will be transportable once you are off the plane. In other words, your 4 giant bags that make it through the airport might not make it in the Fiat the taxi driver has. Do you want to pay for 2 or even 3 taxis just to move your stuff around after you land?
Rule Your Own Luggage
– When choosing luggage for travel, be sure to choose pieces that you and/or each family member can reasonable handle on their own. In other words, a 50 lb. bag without wheels will be unmanageable for an 8 year old child. My family rule when flying is that each family member must be able to handle their own luggage without help. Choosing luggage that everyone can physically manage will save time, headaches, be more secure, and also save money otherwise spent on airport luggage carts and tips to the poor guy who has to tote everything around for you.
Give Yourself a Little Cheating Space
– When flying with more than one person, it is helpful if you factor in a little cheating space when it comes to your luggage. It can be difficult to know how much a large packed piece of luggage weighs. I, for one, was not able to heave my 50 lb. bag onto a home scale and still be able to see how much it weighed. To tell the truth, I was guessing: “Is it heavier or lighter than the 40 lb. dog food bag I buy at home?”. Admittedly, this left a lot of room for error. So, our strategy was to be sure one piece of luggage was underweight. This paid off big time. When we came to the airport, two of our pieces were overweight (this would have incurred $100 in fees). However, we quickly unloaded a few things from the heavy pieces into our lighter piece and, voila, we were within limits! No fees.
Make the Most of Domestic vs. International Luggage Limits – Consider Post –
Remember that you will usually be allowed more luggage on an international flight than a domestic one. We were in a difficult situation this summer as we were visiting the eastern shore for the first leg of our trip where we would need summer clothes, and then moving into the winter of Brazil which would require winter wear. Knowing that winter clothes would put us well over weight limits on the domestic flight to the east coast, I chose to mail a box of our winter things to Connecticut. With enough lead time, the clothes arrived within plenty of time to be packed for the international section where we could travel heavier. The total cost to send the winter clothes for 4 of us was around $40 US total – a lot cheaper than the airline would have charged!
Wear Your Heaviest Clothes
– Another strategy we used to keep our luggage light was to wear our heaviest clothes for the flight. Yes, it may not be as comfortable to get through the airport in your parka and boots but it sure beats trying to pack them. Plus, as soon as you get to your gate, the heavy stuff can come off and eventually take the ride in the overhead compartment while you sit in your cooler t-shirt and pants.
Ask for a lift –
whether you are going for a short trip or an extended nomadic journey, asking friends and family for a ride to the airport can save a lot of money on taxis, shuttles, and/or parking in places like SeaTac Airport parking. Usually there is someone in your life who will look forward to seeing you off at the airport. Be sure to thank them with something afterward and reimburse them for their expenses of getting you there.
– One of the things that irritated me most when heavier security regulations began in airports was the loss of our ability to bring a drink with us for the trip. A three or four dollar bottle of airport water just ticks me off on principal. To top it off, when traveling with family that can turn into nearly $20 just for everyone to have one bottle of water! We get around it by bringing our own bottles. You may not be able to get a bottle of water through security but there is no regulation against bringing an empty bottle! Take your empty bottle through security and then re-fill it as many times as you wish at airport drinking fountains. Due to the number of delays we experienced I know this strategy saved more than $60 when all was said and done.
– Bringing your own snacks for air travel doesn’t just save money – you also eat better! Bring as many non-perishable food items as you can in your carry on luggage. You never know how long your trip is really going to take and you’ll be glad to have some healthy things to eat that don’t cost you extra. Just remember the liquids regulations and stick to dry alternatives.
Do Your Transportation Research on the Destination Side –
Once you arrive at your destination, remember there will be an entire other world of folks ready to be paid to get you out of the airport. Do as much research before you go on the best ways to transition from the airport to your first night’s lodging. Shuttles may be the way to go in your hometown but they may not exist overseas, or the limousine you wouldn’t dream of affording at home might actually be the most economical alternative where you land. Use the internet to find out before you get there.
And remember – enjoy the flight!